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A Wegmans Grocery Store Could be Coming to the Fannie Mae Development in Tenleytown

by Prince Of Petworth March 21, 2017 at 3:30 pm 47 Comments

3900 Wisconsin Ave, NW

Washington Business Journal with the massive potential news:

“Roadside Development is in talks with the popular grocer [Wegmans] to anchor its planned redevelopment of Fannie Mae’s longtime home once it relocates for a new headquarters at Carr Properties’ Midtown Center, according to sources familiar with the situation.”

WBJ also quotes Roadside Development Principal Richard Lake as saying: “We would be very pleased if they became one of our tenants, but I cannot confirm that we have a deal because we just don’t. We’re in conversations with a number of folks.”

Ed. Note: So you’re saying I’ve got a chance?!?!? Good enough for me. Dear God please make this happen.

fannie mae wegmans popville

  • deeluxe

    I hope they don’t turn that nice green lawn into a parking lot. Otherwise, seems like a good idea.

    • Bobby

      DC’s Office of Planning has basically told developer groups that the building front and the lawns are off limits for development. Most everyone feels that they will be landmarked.

  • DCjoe

    Remember when they looked like an almost sure thing at the former Walter Reed site? Don’t count your chickens until a lease is signed and permits and financing are lined up.

    • OffTheAvenue

      What might have been…still grieving over the Walter Reed location not happening.

      • AA

        same… SOB! Wegmans, I can’t get over this break up. Please come back to Walter Reed. WE LOVE YOU

  • Rich

    I suspect that this might be a much more attractive location to Wegman’s than Walter Reed. It is in the middle of the most affluent areas of DC, whereas the Walter Reed site was in a well-off area, surrounded on 3 sides by more modest areas. in addition, it would be somewhat convenient to very affluent areas of NoVa and not entirely too far from Bethesda & Potomac. Neither location is stellar for Metro access, but depending on where it’s sited, this location might be better than Walter Reed. Wegman’s would be a way to jump start the Walter Reed development and perhaps redevelopment of Georgia Avenue, essentially being the obverse to Walmart which hasn’t stimulated much of anything in the area.

    • Rich

      Should be Wegman’s “would have been”

    • DC mom

      Respectfully disagree. Wegmans doesn’t need wealthy area to succeed. Most of their successful stores are in working class, middle class areas (Woodbridge, Germantown, PG, originals in upstate NY). They’d do best in an area that is a grocery store desert. WR area only near Safeway that has been shunned by neighborhood and is likely holding out to sell space to condo developers. Takoma and Shepherd Park, in addition would welcome mid-priced grocery store. No dog in this debate, I’d be thrilled for Wegmans in any part of NW. As is I already drive to PG or Germantown once a month.

      • DT

        I didn’t know this fact about Wegams, i.e., that it tends to locate in working class neighborhoods. As it is, a rumor in my working class neighborhood is that it is coming here- that it bought a big empty lot few hundred feet outside our metro station. I didn’t quite believe it, but this makes it seem slightly more probable.

        • DT

          Yikes! Forgive the typos- wasn’t wearing my glasses.

    • dcd

      This is just over 2 miles and 10 minutes from my house in Bethesda. I’d definitely go here for my weekly grocery shopping. We’re 5 minutes from two Whole Foods and three minutes from the Westbard Giant, which would still be convenient is we needed one or two things (although it takes a dire emergency to get me to that River Road Whole Foods), but I’d personally love this.

  • maxwell smart

    This seems like grocery store overkill – in a stones throw from here there is already Whole Foods and Safeway (North) and Giant (South), plus additional Whole Foods, Giants, Safeways, and a Trader Joes in 2018 within a 2 mile radius.

    • stacksp

      I almost believe that these more boutique grocery stores will eventually push Safeway and Giant much in the same way they pushed out say Shoppers Food Warehouse from back in the day,

      More and more people are gravitation to Whole Foods, TJs and Wegmans. Bloom might be the next grocer on the horizon

      • stacksp

        Excuse the typos. I did not proofread.

      • maxwell smart

        Is Wegmen’s considered boutique? I’ve only been to Wegmen’s once, and while I admit it was nicer then your average Giant/Safeway, I wouldn’t call it boutique. And while I might agree in general that a nicer grocery store chain would push out an average Giant/Safeway, the Giant at Cathedral Commons has done a good job of not being the average Giant.

        • kd21

          Yeah, not sure I’d call it boutique either, specialty, or even upscale. Wegman’s certainly does have specialty products, but they also have Whole-Foods-quality staples at Aldi prices.

        • stacksp

          There is one in VA that has a wine bar, sells crab cake dinners, has a sushi/ Thai stand where you can eat inside at a bar like setting. I consider them a step up from Safeway and Giant.

        • Bobby

          The giant Giant at Cathedral Commons is a disappointment. No windows, a dark tunnel entrance and they still sell the same Giant shit, just more of it. The fact that management lets workers take their smoking break in front of the only entrance is a nice, welcoming touch. Giant was the major partner of Cathedral Commons and unfortunately it shows — the design is uninspired and cheap looking. It resembles more of a limited bet that a developer made in a transitional area than a development in one of DC’s most affluent areas. Compare CC with the design and detailing of Park Van Ness or Bethesda Row. I hope that the Fannie site is better, but it may be a challenge for retail because it will not be able to front Wisconsin Ave. The facade and lawns will be preserved (a good thing, IMO), but it means that pedestrians and vehicles will have to travel to the rear of the site.

          • maxwell smart

            I respectfully disagree with a number of points you’ve made.

            For starters: windows. What incentive would a developer have to give prime retail frontage to a grocery store? I would much rather have the current design that provides a number of smaller retailers to front the street, activate the sidewalk, and bury the grocery store into the mass of the building.

            Selection: Compared to any of the other Giants I have been to in DC, this one offers a much wider selection of products, especially gluten-free, organic, etc.

            I’m also not sure how you can compare CC to Park Van Ness – the scale is totally different. I’m not saying that CC is going to win an architecture award or anything, but is it any worse than the faux-disneyland manufactured aesthetic of Park Van Ness or Bethesda Row? I would argue no.

          • Bobby

            A number of smaller retailers? Originally the Giant was built so large (approx. 60,000 sq ft) because Giant planned to have a pharmacy in the store. Then they changed their mind and let the entire Newark St frontage on the south side to the world’s longest CVS. That CVS space originally was planned to hold several interesting stores and restaurants that would engage the street. Now, between the Giant Tunnel and the long CVS, the south streetscape is hardly “activated.” In fact, it’s pretty dead. The Cathedral Commons Giant is nothing compared to the O St marke, which Giant once claimed it would be like. Overall, the architecture of this development, especially the taller block, resembles nothing so much as a mid-budget off-premise airport hotel. Cheap and uninspired. Cathedral Commons Extended Stay Suites perhaps. 🙂

      • Richard L Layman

        Bloom as a concept was shut down a couple years ago. And the parent company merged with Giant.

        • Bobby


        • stacksp

          Did not realize that. I only saw them in VA and assumed that they were still out there.

    • Anonymous

      @maxwell, While I don’t disagree with you, just want to correct one item. The Secret Safeway (Davenport Street in Tenleytown) is closed, although there is a larger Safeway in Georgetown to the south. There is a WF in Glover Park, another in Tenleytown, another in Friendship Heights, and a third one on River Road in Bethesda. Even with the Tenleytown Safeway closed, there is no shortage of grocery stores within a reasonable distance of this site.

      • maxwell smart

        Good to know – that Safeway was pretty terrible, so I’m not surprised. Although it was a step better than the one on Connecticut and McKinley

        • Sarah

          The Safeway at Connecticut and McKinley is likely to be renovated but only modestly. A lot of people in Chevy Chase DC don’t want it to become another generic mixed-use PUD. With its lively neighborhood streetscape, the last thing CCDC wants is its own Cathedral Commons.

  • Eleanor Oliver

    Does it make sense to bring in a Wegman’s two blocks north of a Giant, a mile or so from the Safeway in N.Georgetown? A Wegman’s that would also be equidistant from the two Whole Foods in Burlieth and the Tenleytown? Is is possible that roadside development is dangling a lovely Legman’s under our noses to be more receptive to a highly demanding and highly organized community.

    • dcd

      Well, it certainly doesn’t make sense for Giant.
      And calling that neighborhood a “highly demanding and highly organized community” is about the nicest way possible to characterize an obstructionist, selfish set of neighbors.

      • FridayGirl

        Although to be honest, I would take a Wegman’s over either of those Whole Foods (one of which is now not operating) and Giant/Safeway any day.

        • maxwell smart

          Have you been to the Cathedral Commons Giant? It’s pretty nice for a regular grocery store. They have a small beer/wine bar, a jazz combo on Friday’s and easily the largest selection of gluten-free products I have ever seen in any store, all conveniently grouped together. I would also add that while the Tenleytown Whole Foods is small, it’s not terrible (much better than River Road) and is somewhat supported by a larger store at FH. I guess having only been to Wegmans once, I don’t see the appeal.

          • Sarah

            Uh! Can you imagine meeting a date at the Giant wine bar? OMG. Also, it’s sort of creepy to be drinking plonk wine while Giant’s porky armed security guard prowls around the bar. If Giant thinks it has a problem with security in Cathedral Heights (?!), then perhaps serving alcohol at the store entrance isn’t the smartest move.

          • maxwell smart

            Ha! Yeah, I don’t think the intent is really for a be a bar, especially to meet dates. But it’s pretty nice to grab a beer and then go grocery shopping.

          • Sarah

            Maybe drinking a beer at Giant makes it easier to ignore the smell coming from their fish counter! Overall, the store’s yup-scale pretensions are kind of pathetic.

      • Bobby

        I sort of wish that the community had been more “obstructionist’ when it comes to Cathedral Commons. Seems like the DC zoning board gave Giant everything it wanted. If the neighbors had been more organized the community might have gotten a better design than the cheap one that got built. Aluminum balconies –really?

        • eckington chick

          “more obstructionist” – you do realize that the neighborhood had that thing tied up in litigation for over 10 years before construction started! I really don’t see how more obstructionist they could have been.

          • Bobby

            You are incorrect. In 2002/2003 Giant signed an agreement with Mayor Williams’ office, DC Office of Planning and a local civic group to build a replacement store with certain features incorporated. Then Giant just walked away from the agreement, ostensibly because they were acquired by Ahold (which itself was then dealing with a big securities fraud case). So Giant/Ahold was the obstructionist, breaching the agreement that it signed. After several years of nothing, the local ANC chair hired an architect and persuaded Giant to engage with the ANC and community groups. This produced a plan that was widely praised. Later Giant came back and upped the size of the project significantly. The only litigation occurred after the zoning board approved the final plan, which didn’t comport with zoning, sometime in 2011-2012. The plaintiffs lost the litigation, but many observers think that had the DC Court of Appeals decided later the MacMillan reservoir case at that point, the Giant development would have been sent back to the zoning board.

  • Michael Pierce

    I’m wondering how much a Wegmans at this location would impact traffic on Wisconsin Avenue. It’s already pretty bad through there.

    • Sam

      DC’s plan is to divert more traffic to Reno and 34th to relieve Wisconsin.

      • maxwell smart

        That is a TERRIBLE idea

        • lizcolleena

          Damn, Reno Rd has been my “secret” route to Friendship Heights. I used to work up there and have to drive regularly, and it was the only way to go. Now I only drive that way occasionally, but it’s still so much better than Wisc. or Conn.

  • Sam

    A Wegmans up the street would pretty much kill the Cathedral Commons Giant because Giant wouldn’t be able to compete on quality and the retail experience.. Giant would have to change its business model and cut its prices to attract more folks from outside the immediate area.

  • AnonV2

    Unless Wegmans is looking to debut a new urban model here there is zero chance of this. Their footprints require a very large commitment to surface or garage parking on top of their already large store footprint. That is what killed any chance at Walter Reed. I’m sure they are in negotiations, but from the Wegmans side it’s “We need you to give us, like, HALF of this land for parking”. I would love nothing more than to have them in the city, but it ain’t happening’ with their current business model.

    • FoggyBottom

      While Wegmans historically requires a significant footprint to achieve their vision of made-to-order items plus groceries, they do have a smaller footprint store in their arsenal , a downtown Rochester store, that could be copied elsewhere. There is no way this location will allow for an Alexandra type store. Wegmans is creeping into the inner suburbs of both Boston, DC, and Baltimore, so it makes sense they might try for an actual city-type store.

    • stacksp

      And you dont think this space could support garage parking?

      • Sam

        Fannie already has a large parking deck behind the building, although the rear of the property is what is likely to be re-developed because it will not be landmarked. The challenge for retail is attracting customers to come in a couple hundred years off Wisconsin Ave, with no retail frontage on the avenue.

  • Sam

    If Wegman’s opens at this location, I would agree that it will eat Giant’s high-fat, junk food, non-organic lunch.

  • Sarah

    The Northwest Current confirms that Trader Joe’s will open in the former Holiday Inn site on Wisconsin Avenue, halfway between the Safeway and the temporarily closed Glover Park Whole Foods and not far from the Cathedral Commons Giant. Trader Joe’s may not affect any Wegman’s decision, but its easy to imagine the Giant being caught in pincers. They may have miscalculated in building a Germantown-sized store in the city, even though most customers don’t fill SUVs full of outer suburban-sized shopping orders. Now Giant will have more competition at various price points in the Wisconsin corridor than they may have bargained for. I wonder what would happen to the space if Giant were to close. Dollar General?


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